SAY WHAT YOU MEAN

A Mind­ful Ap­proach to Non­vi­o­lent Com­mu­ni­ca­tion

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight | Self-help -

Oren Jay Sofer, Shamb­hala Pub­li­ca­tions (DE­CEM­BER) Soft­cover $16.95 (304pp), 978-1-61180-583-3

Words can hurt, and they can heal. We need only look around us these days to see how the words we use, and the ways we use them, can cre­ate or de­stroy in­di­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties, even na­tions. In these chaotic times, Oren Jay Sofer’s wise and sensitive guide to mind­ful, non­vi­o­lent com­mu­ni­ca­tion is a balm for the soul.

A stu­dent of Mar­shall B. Rosen­berg and a long­time med­i­ta­tor, Sofer has iden­ti­fied three steps to ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion: lead with pres­ence, which keeps us grounded and aware of the choices we have in how we re­late to oth­ers; come from cu­rios­ity and care, which of­fers the con­di­tions needed for un­der­stand­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion; and fo­cus on what mat­ters, which fa­cil­i­tates each per­son’s abil­ity to iden­tify what is or isn’t im­por­tant to the out­come of a con­ver­sa­tion. He de­scribes a good con­ver­sa­tion as a dance made up of three ba­sic po­si­tions: speak­ing, lis­ten­ing, and rest­ing in pres­ence. When these flow well, con­ver­sa­tions de­velop a rhythm that brings the hu­man ner­vous sys­tem into har­mony.

For those who find the dance of con­ver­sa­tion awk­ward, es­pe­cially in high-stress mo­ments, Sofer pro­vides ways to deesca­late the ten­sion with sam­ple phrases that in­tro­duce top­ics and in­ten­tions, keep­ing the di­a­logue fo­cused and flow­ing smoothly and meet­ing the needs of both par­ties. Just imag­ine: in­stead of ra­bid tweets ca­pa­ble of desta­bi­liz­ing na­tions, what if world lead­ers could come to­gether to ask, “Could we sit down and look at what we both need, to see if we can find a way to work this out?”

De­tailed, thor­ough, and prac­ti­cal, Say What You Mean shines light on the abil­ity of good com­mu­ni­ca­tion to bring more com­pas­sion, kind­ness, and wis­dom to our re­la­tion­ships. “What we say mat­ters,” writes Sofer, who sees words as a kind of magic with the power to change our world.

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